“Remember your best self? I’ve never been my best self.”
Therapy, rehabilitation, self-help. These three things can all seem like pretentious, exaggerated ideals of humility when one doesn’t have an optimistic perspective. This gentility shattering installment of Enlightened delivers a breakthrough for the character of Levi (Luke Wilson), who is otherwise known as Amy’s ex-husband who went off to rehabilitation in last season’s finale. However, in “Higher Power” Levi (unlike Amy’s elegant, godly breakthrough and venture into finding enlightenment) finds his own god element in a more rough-edged fashion that puts him in the middle of an absolutely sad and pathetic bottom of two other young drug addicts. I believe they say the first step of battling an addiction is admitting that said addiction is stronger than you are. Levi, stubborn as ever, doesn’t realize that until it is almost too late. Finding humility in all the pollution around him, Levi luckily is on the search for Amy‘s turtle once again…
Hawaii, in Open Air Rehab Center, Levi is in the midst of his worst nightmare. A fact that Amy finds ultimately frustrating. Levi’s letter to Amy concerning his less than enlightened experience in rehabilitation literally craps on every prospect of idealistic humility that Amy perceived during her transition. Levi is a very different machine than Amy. Breaking down his wall proves to be a maddening task. As a drug addict, Levi’s nerves and anger at even being at Open Air are entirely erratic. Pair him with a roommate that has gross gastric issues and heavy bowel movements, and you’ve got a disaster. Amy’s frustration with Levi also might have her second guessing herself and her own enlightenment. Amy has said time and time again that her experience at Open Air gave her the life she once had back. It gave her the drive, her health, her values, and her strength. But now that someone Amy cares deeply about is belittling that experience, she might feel as though she cannot even be entirely confident in her own humility, which could distract her in the mission to take down Abaddonn Industries. Amy went on about how a majestic sea turtle helped her find God and humility. But not for Levi.“There was no turtle. Just a bunch of garbage at the bottom of the ocean.” Harsh. Amy feels as though she couldn’t fix her own ex-husband, so how can she fix Abaddonn, or the world for that matter, which is her ultimate goal in even taking this mission on? It’s maddening when you try so hard to fix something and it just ends up broken again.
Levi’s frustration only escalates until he finally snaps at his roommate and even goes so far as to call one of the group therapy leaders out on their BS, which thoroughly impresses a pair of fellow rehabbers Danielle (Ashley Hinshaw) and Travis (Girls’ Christopher Abbott) enough that they invite Levi along their late-night getaway to a nearby hotel. A getaway that Levi initially denies, but due to more exaggerated spiritual talk and whining from other patients at Open Air, he decides to join them, which indicates how stressed and stubborn Levi is at this point. The guy is almost fifty and he goes partying with a pair of rebellious twenty-somethings that are at the prime of their lives, and yet seem to find that feeling numb a cool thing to do. At this point, Levi is taking whatever escape from reality that he can get, which shifts the episode into some interesting melancholy and tragic territory.
Travis is a fascinatingly realistic portrait of a young rebellious addict attempting to run away from his issues, and Danielle is essentially an anti-Amy and a hugely bad influence on both Levi and Travis. These three just make a really tragic combination that for a good chunk of the episode spiral down into a numb world full of drugs, drinking and debauchery. It all seems fun, and for the first time in the installment, Levi is smiling and has a sense of joy in his eyes that was absent in previous scenes, but it doesn’t take long before everything turns dismal. Thankfully, the show doesn’t slam us with some insanely dramatic end to their night of fun, but instead leads us along this trail of cocaine, alcohol, and sexual arousal to a tidy revelation…
The trio’s fun night at the hotel leads them to a joining an older, drunk patron to his room, who know doubt would have liked to have his own way with the two younger inebriated persons in the room, which is evident by his chummy demeanor and less than subtle comment, “You guys remind me of my stepkids”. From that point on the whole experience is laced with an irreverent sleaze and grossness that its almost hard to watch. Levi’s further descent into this drugged funhouse leads him to nearly falling for Danielle. The two share a semi-meaningful conversation that expresses Danielle’s lack of interest in actually doing much of anything. She’s young and she’s naive, and probably fell into the black hole of drug addiction accidentally due to the screwed up aspects of the world and now she’s here, in a hotel room with three other guys who she is wavering between.
It doesn’t take long before Danielle and Levi talk about Amy and Levi defends his ex-wife and her intentions. Levi did essentially come to Open Air for Amy, to get her back in some sort of way. And I think that realization is what brings Levi out of this BS world that is only bringing him down further into the polluted depths of the ocean. It’s why he can’t find humility. His attitude, much like Danielle’s is set on other insignificant and foolish things, which is apparent as she then switches her attention from Levi to the aforementioned older creeper in the room, who she then decides to go on a walk with. Who knows where Danielle ended up after that. She could have been whisked off her feet by that older gentlemen or even ended up in a ditch somewhere, which I think is another thing that snaps Levi out of this night of partying and drugs. The lack of direction and the erratic possibilities of where Levi can end up force him to actually look around him and see the self-destructive path he and his fellow rehabbers are heading down. And it’s extremely ugly, desperate and depressing.
Levi watches, disgusted, as Travis kneels over the toilet dry-heaving and vomiting into the bowl. There is nothing glamorous or fun about this. It’s sad, gross, and signals a lack of dignity. Levi might not be a believer of spirituality or of a perfect, healing god element, but he believes what he can see. And right now he sees two young people who are at their bottoms, worse that he has ever been. I think that is what ultimately shakes him and changes his attitude. Listening to a high, depressed Travis whine desperately about how he continues to screw everything up is like looking at a past version of Levi’s self. And that’s painful to watch. Levi awakens the next morning and makes his way back to the rehabilitation center where apparently, Danielle nor Travis have made it back yet.
From that point, Levi writes Amy another letter. In this one, he expresses his new self-realization. It’s a new breakthrough–or maybe the beginning of his enlightenment. Levi has made strides to change his attitude and perspective in order to get better. He realizes that although he lacks belief in these expressions of God and humility, he has to continue on this road for himself and for Amy. In a sense, Amy is Levi’s humility and god element. Amy is the only reason why Levi is still alive at this point. As long as Amy continues believing in his enlightenment…maybe one day he will finally find Amy’s turtle. And maybe that’s is enough to keep Amy on her very ambitious mission to fix the world.
Enlightened continues to be exceptional television that not enough people are watching. This might be one of the series’ best episodes, that discovers more aspects of one of the many flawed main characters. There’s a deep sadness to episode, even in a few of the more humorous scenes. But there is also an underlying tone of hope in all of that sadness and tragedy. Hope for enlightenment. And we see Levi on a path to just that. “I keep going out every day looking for your turtle. I really want to find it, but even if I don’t, I know you did, and for me, that’s good enough.” There is always wishful thinking. “Higher Power” gets 5 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013